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211-215 Pearl St.

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Facades of warehouses in old Pearl St. mercantile district, two of which have been demolished

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Alan Solomon

This trio of early 1830’s neo-Classical warehouses, located on Pearl St. between Maiden Lane and Platt St., are the last relic from the heart of the Pearl Street mercantile district that historians have identified as the city’s first world trade center. 211 Pearl Street, built for the soap maker William Colgate, contains an intriguing brickwork symbol that is most probably the work of Ithiel Town, Sr., partner of the country’s first architectural firm — Town & Davis.

These buildings represent the transformation of New York from a port town into the country’s commercial capital in the era just following completion of the Erie Canal. Built in the Greek revival style, they also delivered a message that Democracy is the root of economic prosperity and opportunity. Because of the location, value, early occupants and retained architectural details, they remain the best surviving monument to these ideals.

211 Pearl has already been gutted with only the facade retained. 213 Pearl remains intact (though damaged by demolition of adjacent building). 215 Pearl is now demolished, and promises to rebuild the facade may be abandoned. At the moment there is an effort underway to salvage the symbol at 211 Pearl St. — a rare architectural gem with clear associations to the early 19th c. architect Ithiel Town.

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